Haiti and Vodoun
When Maya Deren decided to make an ethnographic film in Haiti, she was criticized for abandoning avantgarde film where she had carved her place, but she was ready to expand to a new level as an artist. The Guggenheim grant enabled Deren to finance travel to Haiti in 1947 and to complete her film "Meditation on Violence". She went on three additional trips through 1954 to document and record the rituals of vodoun. A source of inspiration for ritual dance was Katherine Dunham who wrote her master’s thesis on Haitian dances in 1939, which Deren edited. Afterwards Deren wrote several articles on religious possession in dancing before her first trip to Haiti. Deren not only filmed, recorded and photographed many hours of vodoun ritual, but also participated in the ceremonies. She documented her knowledge and experience of Vodoun in Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti (New York: Vanguard Press, 1953), edited by Joseph Campbell, which is considered a definitive source on the subject.
Deren filmed 18,000 feet of Vodoun rituals and people she met in Haiti. The footage was incorporated into a posthumous documentary film Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti edited and produced by Teiji Itō and his wife Cherel Winett Itō (1947-1999) in 1977. All of the original wire recordings, photographs and notes are held in the Maya Deren Collection at Boston University's Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center. The footage is housed at Anthology Film Archives, New York.